Lucrezia de Medici, a beautiful sunny girl marries the dark and brooding Duke of Ferrera, Alfonso de Este. At first, Alfonso is smitten by his bride's innocence and youth. As a man of the world, he is anxious for the long awaited heir to the 900 year old Duchy. When Lucrezia arrives at Ferrera, Alfonso quickly becomes annoyed with his bride's child-like manners and lack of decorum. Lucrezia finds herself increasingly isolated and chastised as she fails to live up to her husband's exacting standards. Their attempts at a marriage and begetting an heir become increasingly frustrating. Alfonso finds solace for his troubled heart in the arms of his courtesan, Francesca, leaving his Duchess loveless and alone. Fra Pandolf arrives to paint a mural and a portrait of Lucrezia. Her excitement arouses Alfonso's suspicions and drives him further into madness as he believes Lucrezia is deliberately destroying and belittling his lineage.Without a legitimate heir, the Duchy will fall into Papal Hands. The fate of the 900 year of Duchy and the life of a Duchess rest in Alfonso's irrational hands.
I loved the contrast between Lucrezia and Alfonso. Two people couldn't be more ill suited for marriage. Alfonso is jaded by life and his dark nature is his constant shadow. He is the perfect villain, as he darkens every scene he enters. Lucrezia's childhood innocence make her unable to stand up to her husband or examine her future. One cannot help but to feel sorry for the innocent Lucrezia. Her naivety make her an unsuspecting target. This book based on Robert Browing's poem combines danger, love and madness that will leave you wondering the Castello Grounds for weeks to come!